Agrippina’s role during Nero’s reign

Agrippina’s role during Nero’s reign BY Jern330 AGRIPPINA’S ROLE DURING THE REIGN OF NERO- Agrippina was the mother of the Emperor Nero. Her influence on politics and her ambition dates back to his birth and spans till the time her powers began to decrease, and eventual assassination in 59 AD. Nero was 17 at the time he succeeded Claudius. In the early years of his reign, Agrippina held great influence over her son and political affairs.

However her downfall began in his inaugural address, when she was indirectly denounced by Nero, who later began to rely on others, such as Seneca,Burrus and Poppaea Sabina. During the first few years of Nero’s reign, Agrippina held much influence over her son and political affairs. Because Nero was 17 at the time he became Emperor, and not yet old enough to rule, Agrippina helped him with his duties. This is described by Suetonius, who says “…

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he turned over all his public and private affairs to Agrippina’s management”. Nero gave her many honours including using the term “Optima mater” (The best of mothers), as a password for the Praetorian Guard.During the early years, she was granted two lictors, became riestess of the cult of Claudius, travelled in a carpentum, and appeared on the obverse side of coins.

Her appearance on coins indicated her immense political power and influence over her son. According to Tacitus, Agrippina exercised real power, by removing threats. An example of this is the removal of Silanus, which is accounted for in his lines “The first casualty of the new reign was the Governor of Asia, Marcus Junius Silanus. His death was treacherously contrived by Agrippina, without Nero’s knowledge”.Agrippina had been afraid he would avenge the death of is brother, who she had killed.

Agrippina’s downfall gradually occurred due to the changing relationship with her son. There were many threats made and violent actions carried out between the two. Once Nero was emperor, he had begun to rely on his tutors Seneca and Burrus for political advice. Nero wished to establish his own independency and came to resent Agrippina’s interference. This is referred to in Suetonius’ line “the over-watchful, over-critical eye that Agrippina kept on whatever Nero said or did proved more than he could stand”.

The first example of a troubled relationship is introduced in Nero’s inaugural speech, written by Seneca, which signalled her reduced influence. An example of her loss of influence is Agrippina’s absence during the Armenian Embassys arrival to Rome. When Agrippina approached Nero, he greeted her as if he were paying her special respect, but did not allow her to sit beside him as she had done with Claudius when Caractactus paid homage to them, which was a clear indication to show her authority was limited. It was Seneca who instructed him to do this.During this time, Agrippina was also beginning to lose political influence, as Nero removed the freedman Pallas, who was a client and advisor for Agrippina. She was gradually losing control over Nero, who fell in love with a former slave girl called Acte. Agrippina opposed the relationship, which caused further strain in her relationship with her son. She responded by threatening to support Britannicus, claiming he was the worthy heir.

Nero reacted by having Britannicus poisoned. Tacitus refers to a party she tried to generate, in order to bring Nero’s collapse.This is referred to in his statement “she seemed to be strained, as Nero paid homage to his biological father and had Agrippina removed from the palace. Away from the palace, she was accused to trying to marry Plautus, in order to plot a revolt against Nero. Knowing she was rapidly losing influence over her son, Agrippina attempted to have an incestuous relationship. This is reported by Tacitus who claims she was “all decked out and ready for incest”. Nero’s relationship to other women helped him decide to eliminate his mother.Poppaea Sabina, who as having an affair with Nero, successfully managed to convince him to kill his mother.

Modern historian, Bauman says “Poppaea was destined to achieve what professional politicians of two reigns had not been able to do, namely complete and final destruction of Agrippina”. By 59 AD, Agrippina had lost all control over Nero, who had previously attempted to have her murdered in various ways, wanting her death to appear accidental. His attempts included poisoning, falling ceilings and a collapsible ship. News of Agrippina’s survival of the collapsing ship, reached Nero ho sent assassins to kill her.

Nero was 17 at the time he succeeded the Emperor Claudius. In the early years of his reign, Agrippina held much influence over her son and politics. She also had more privileges and honors given to her than any other woman in Rome. However, like Messalina, she suffered a downfall. This began when she was indirectly denounced by Nero, and continued as Nero came to resent her control and influence over him.

Nero began to rely on others, such as Seneca and Burrus. Nero’s lovers, Acte and Poppaea Sabina, also contributed to Agrippina’s demise.

Author: Milton Hansen


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